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BOOK
Soon I Will be Invincible (Hardback)

Author: Austin Grossman
Penguin
RRP: 16.99, US $22.95
ISBN: 978 0 718 15291 8
Available 02 August 2007


Doctor Impossible's main nemesis is dead, which would be great if the good Doctor had not just escaped from prison in time to be accused of the murder. With an evil genius at large The New Champions reform, including new member
Fatale, part woman part robot, to catch Doctor Impossible and avenge the death of CoreFire, before Impossible can take over the world...

Soon I Will be Invincible is the debut novel by Austin Grossman who is a Harvard graduate, a games designer and is presently working on his English Doctorate.

It is really refreshing, having waded through more genre novels than I care to remember, to come across one that presents a thoughtful, amusing and refreshing slant on the subject of super heroes - whose recent glut of mostly mediocre films and television is in danger of turning the subject once again deeply unfashionable.

The story of Invincible is told mainly from the perspective of Doctor Impossible, one time geek, loser and all round existential angst suffering genius, and the cyborg Fatale, whose unexpected elevation into the big league of crime fighting isn't what she was expecting. Neurosis abounds on both sides of the good and evil fence, but then if it were real, it probably would. The book is very much in the mould of Alan Moore's nineteen eighty-six Watchman, in that it is an attempt to deconstruct the usual super heroes myth. At points it has the gritty hues of Frank Miller's The Dark Knight Returns, laced with a liberal sprinkling of absurdist humour.

Structurally the book is divided into three sections, which alternates each of the chapter's perspective between Fatale and Impossible. Slowly, as the book progresses, we get to know the real origins story of these two characters as well as the negative side of being super powered. If, like Fatale, you're a cyborg and one of the good guys then your motivation is pretty straight forward, but motivation wont pay the bills or buy expensive replacement part. Being an evil genius is an even more difficult gig, first there are certain expectations of you: the evil laugh, the desire to tell the good guys exactly what your up to and worst of all, what to do with the world even if you did conquer it. I remember in a particularly personal Victor Meldrew moment deciding that I could do a better job of running the world until I remembered what life was like for Augustus Caesar, who really did rule the known world and spent every hour god sent in what sounded like the dullest admin job you can imagine.

Grossman uses this mix of the real and the absurd - the plan's not exactly thought through and the difficulties of taking over the world whilst dressed like a Christmas piñata is used to give his two principle characters depth and shading. Impossible's musings on the difference between the super villain and super heroes engage the reader's sympathy and understanding. After a while you'll find that you will tend to agree with him that super heroes offer very little when not fighting someone, but super villains will always have their intelligence and ingenuity.

The book is awash with cultural references, whether it is to comic books - most of the characters are recognisable archetypes - or even to pastiches on Narnia. Just trying to get them all adds another rich layer to the book.

A mention should go to the presentation of the book. I was lucky enough to have been sent the hardback version, which included five full colour faked up Champions comic book covers as well as a double page spread showing the evolution of the dust jackets artwork and a double page illustration of the Battle on Titan, making the book a nice object to own.

Invincible offers a funny, thoughtful and totally engrossing read. If you don't buy this novel you'll be missing out on one of the best genre books this year.

Charles Packer

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